Veeva Systems released its 2015 Promotional Content Management System survey, and found that while many in the pharma industry want end-to-end systems to keep track of and disseminate the flood of promotional digital materials being generated, the industry’s capabilities to do so are hampered at this time by a number of factors. Med Ad News spoke with John Chinnici, VP of Veeva’s Global Vault PromoMats, to get more insights of the survey results and the challenges pharma faces in putting together end-to-end promotional content management systems.


Med Ad News: What does this mean for your clients, how can they use the results of this survey to improve their promotional content management systems and processes?

John Chinnici: The first finding is that customers broadly agree that there is a need for an end-to-end system. To me, that’s not so much of a surprise, and maybe it’s because of the world or the environment we work in specifically, but to me having a system and a process that incorporates at the front end collaborations with agencies, through review and approval of the content, and out to the distribution, it makes a lot of sense.

There are a couple of reasons why it makes sense. One is, for marketing, and getting your messages out to market faster. That’s relatively obvious and straightforward, I think. Another that’s slightly less obvious is because of digital evolution and what we think of as proliferation of channels and pushing content out to a number of different channels, there is a content explosion taking place and being able to manage that content quickly is a need. It’s not just the review and approval, it’s also the push, distribution, and withdrawal of the content. And the third thing is the compliance element of it. We now have proliferation of all this content in conjunction with the fact that the regulatory agencies are clamping down. In the U.S., there aren’t more warning letters coming out, but there is a lot more guidances coming out from the FDA and effectively more regulation globally in this space.

So having a single process and a single system that supports this end-to-end vision, it’s a need, we’re definitely seeing a need out there., that’s the first part of what this survey is telling us.

To me, all this wasn’t a surprise. What is a surprise to me is that customers don’t seem to broadly have these systems in place. While customers feel that they need that, [having these systems] doesn’t seem to have become as pervasive as I would have expected. And the question I start to ask is, why is there a gap between what people want and what they actually have? And to me, this is the next phase of what we need to dig into with this survey and with this analysis. My belief is that we are on the front end of a wave of compliance focus and digital channel enablement and content proliferation.

The good news is, customers don’t need these processes and these systems in place today. The bad news is, with this wave that is coming, I believe that two or three years from now, if customers don’t have these processes and these systems and capabilities in place, then we will be in a very bad place. People won’t be able to keep up with their digital needs, people won’t be able to have the firm compliance in terms of understanding what messages are in what segments of the market so that in the event of a claims change or a need to withdraw, they can very quickly remove that content.
With a manual process, you can probably support it for a small subset of channels. But as the channels expand and as the interaction with the customer in a deeper, more interactive way starts to change, the current systems are not going to be able to continue to support that.

Med Ad News: What is the biggest barrier, in your opinion, in getting these systems into place? Is it the technology factor or internal management factors?

John Chinnici: Technology is a part of it, for sure … but I don’t know if that’s the biggest part of it or not. Certainly an equally important component is the ability to align the organization around this. I couple the process, and the change management associated with that process, very tightly with the technology. All of those things need to come together. And I think that companies have been operating in a way for a long time that has worked for them—again, with a minimum number of channels, with a smaller subset of content than we would certainly expect in the dramatic future—companies have done just fine with multiple systems, with multiple Excel spreadsheets, with different handoffs and processes in place.

The change for anything—whether it’s promotional content management systems and processes or something entirely different—it requires an acknowledgment that there is a need for that and there’s value in doing so and harmonizing and putting the work into doing that.

As far as the barriers to get to that ideal state, and again most people seem to agree that’s the ideal state. But getting the entire team aligned to moving in that direction in working in a more collaborative way—with the agencies, including the people who are the medical, legal, regulatory reviewers, and the people responsible for distributing the content across channels—that in some cases has been relatively decoupled, and I think that’s as big of a problem as the technology itself.

There’s a people component, and getting that component right is equally as important as getting the technology piece right.

Med Ad News: Could the industry’s innate conservatism be another barrier in getting these systems into place?

John Chinnici: We need to be conservative. There are real reasons that we want to be conservative. And the compliance capability, which is what we are talking about here, is even more conservative because their job is to mitigate risk. I think it’s appropriate that we are conservative in our approach around change. The challenge we have, again, I feel that we are on the front edge of a wave of change that is being thrust upon us, and it is in the interest of our respective customers—the healthcare providers, the patients—because of their desire to communicate in a more collaborative and interactive and more patient and customer-focused way. So as a result, all of the channels, such as the online channels, the face-to-face channels, the social media channels, these are being demanded by the customers, the patients and the providers. And also as a result, the industry itself is changing.

So while being conservative is absolutely appropriate, it’s important to note that the way we’re interacting with patients and providers is changing as well. The notion of the momentum of change for managers and people who work in the industry, you may be able to make that point, but the overarching point here is this wave of change based off of digital communication. So it is in our interest to be a little less change-averse, a little less conversative, because we need to address these specific changes.

Med Ad News: What are specific recommendations you would make to clients based on the survey results?

John Chinnici: We’d certainly try to figure out where they align, in terms of how progressive or what their plans are as far as digital communication. A second thing to look at is where folks are, as far as the tolerance for change and the compliance situation they may be in as well. I think based off that, figuring out if you are well along the path of digital content and interactive communication with your customer that indicates how far you need to go along the path of harmonizing the processes, the people, as well as the systems.

If you do anticipate that this wave of change is coming, as far as those two elements I mentioned before, then providing the infrastructure in advance to support that I think it critically important. We all know that doing things in advance and proactively is most of the time more efficient than doing them reactively. And we’ve seen that in particular cases across the industry.

I would certainly encourage folks who feel that this shift, this change around communications and compliance, if that is something that impacts your business directly, to dig into the process and the people and the tools that people have in place to verify whether there are gaps or whether there are opportunities to optimize in any one of those domains. Look into where those gaps are and how we can potentially optimize them and put some systems, processes, and people into place to help alleviate those gaps.